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Author Topic: Elecraft  (Read 24322 times)
WB8NUT
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« Reply #30 on: October 08, 2016, 05:11:17 AM »

I purchased an Elecraft KX3 last year, and it was the biggest purchasing mistake of my amateur radio life.  I was duped by the Elecraft hype and it cost me $1700 of my hard-earned money.  Potential buyers looking for a portable/QRP radio should avoid Elecraft products.  Instead I recommend starting with a Yaesu FT-817 and adding after-market filters and an IF tap via the G4HUP PAT kit if you want panadapter functionality.  Even after all those mods, you'll still end up spending FAR less than you would on a fully equipped KX3, have a FAR more durable radio, and have the benefit of 70cm band to boot.

BACKGROUND:
In October 2015 I ordered a KX-3 kit from Elecraft, as well as the roofing filter, battery charger, internal tuner, and CW paddles.  Upon assembling the kit, I found the right pot on the radio mainboard was inoperative, requiring a complete board replacement.  The following month I added a 2m transverter to the radio. Upon installing the 2m transverter, I found that I was unable to transmit for more than 2-3 minutes at 2W without the transceiver shutting down due to overheating.  Finally, in August 2016 (10 months after my initial purchase) I sat down to operate the radio one morning, and discovered it would not power on.  Upon opening the case, I discovered the 8 internal AA batteries in the internal battery holder had exploded all over the radio.  I sent the remains of the radio to Elecraft, where I was told the radio was a complete loss.

RADIO DESIGN:
The KX-3 is a poorly designed radio from an ergonomics, durability & reliability standpoint.  While Elecraft touts it as a superlative radio for portable & emergency operations, it is anything but.  The radio internals consist of a number of stacked circuit boards with no shock/isolation mounting.  The roofing filter stacks vertically on one side of the radio, but is only held in place by a single pass-through screw which supposedly keeps it in place.  Even with the screw in place, the roofing filter board has a moderate amount of play when touched.  The internal battery charger and internal battery pack are likely the worst design I've ever seen in an electronic component.  The power wires for the battery charger are routed between two very tight spaces inside the radio, where the wires can easily become pinched and short against adjacent components.  Furthermore, rather than sit at the bottom of the radio where a leak would have the least impact, the internal battery pack sits on top the internal component boards of the radio with no underlying protection, so any internal battery malfunction causes irreparable damage to the two main component boards below the battery pack.  Apparently, Elecraft has also had significant problems with the battery pack mounting screws inside the radio either not being seated properly, or backing out under portable use, causing batteries to short out.  There were quite a few warnings/cautions/notes about this in the kit assembly guide.

ELECRAFT - THE WARRANTY FINE PRINT:
While I was certainly disappointed that my KX3 failed 10 months into its service life, I assumed a company with Elecraft's reputation would stand behind their product and replace the radio under the 1-year warranty it came with.  I certainly assumed wrongly.  Upon sending back my $1700 KX-3, Elecraft informed me the radio was a complete loss, but they extended the "generous" offer of allowing me to purchase a replacement KX-3 for "only" $975.  The initial technician report from Elecraft failed to identify the cause of the failure, and when I inquired about the warranty coverage the "Customer Support" tech proceeded to proliferously quote the "fine print" from various Elecraft documents about how Elecraft wasn't responsible for damage caused by "non-Elecraft accessory equipment" (the batteries in this case).  He also quoted fine print which said Elecraft wouldn't replace the radio if the damage was caused by alkaline battery leakage (my batteries were NiMH).  Finally, he said, and I quote:  "It was our conclusion that a battery failure caused the destruction of the internal boards in your radio. How this happened is undetermined, but it could have been related to the battery holder assembly and a shorted battery cell."  To paraphrase: "Battery failure caused the destruction of your KX3.  We couldn't determine how this happened, so we are assuming it was your fault."  Despite the fact that I followed the kit assembly instructions to the finest detail (especially because of all the warnings about battery shorts in the assembly instructions), used the recommended NiMH batteries, and the radio operated normally for 10 months after I assembled the kit and used it only as a desktop base-station radio, Elecraft "Customer Support" refused to honor the 1-year warranty on the radio.  During my warranty discussions, Elecraft management convened and apparently collectively decided they would revise their initial radio replacement offer from $975 down to "only $675, provided I accepted the offer within 5 days of receipt."  Having already been duped out of $1700 by the company, I declined the offer.

ELECRAFT - THE COMPANY:
Elecraft has chosen to bill itself as a high-end radio producer, and charges premium-rate prices for their products.  While their products certainly generate top-quality specs in laboratory testing, it is highly indicative that the company is run by engineers who know hardware, but don't have a clue how to do customer relations.  Furthermore, given their reputation in print, I was actually taken aback at how overt was the company's failure to stand behind their product.  I was also surprised that Elecraft chose to dig in their heels on the warranty replacement.  Even if a replacement radio for me cost the company $975 (the initial replacement price they quoted me), assuming a 100% markup on their products (an approximate retail average), if a negative review costs them only two KX3 sales, they would have been better off just replacing the radio.

Bottom line - Elecraft's website header bear's the tagline "Hands-On Ham Radio".  By that, they apparently mean "your hands-on means we wash ours of any liability".  My experience with Elecraft left me with the profound impression that the company only cares about getting your dollars.  If you want top quality performance right up to the point you're left holding the bag because of Elecraft design/manufacturing shortcomings, the KX3 is definitely the radio for you.  As for me, Elecraft will never see another dime of my money - I much prefer a company that stands behind their products.

Wow, thanks for this information. I was about to place an order for a new K3S, but learning that they do not back their products under warranty makes me very concerned. Really wanted to buy from a US manufacturer now that we have lost TenTec, but I am not going to risk all that money on a radio that may or may not be covered under warranty if something goes wrong. I hate when companies look for some legal loophole to back out of liability for their products.

In my opinion, if they could not determine the reason for the failure, then in good conscience, they should consider it to have been a defect and covered it.

Well, now I know to write off Elecraft as a possibility. Back to looking at Flex again.
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N9AOP
Member

Posts: 413




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« Reply #31 on: October 08, 2016, 03:22:13 PM »

I have never had a problem with my KX3 or K3 or KP500 or KAT.  A ham friend of mine needed warranty work on a K3S and it was done at no cost to him.   I honestly believe that some folks are destined to have shit dumped on them no matter what they do.  The fact that there are not 200 complaints against Elecraft in this venue says a lot about how they take care of their customers.
Art

BTW If you get a KX3, buy the aftermarket heat sink.  That should have been standard equipment with this radio.
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W6EM
Member

Posts: 1491




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« Reply #32 on: October 09, 2016, 06:14:26 PM »

I purchased an Elecraft KX3 last year, and it was the biggest purchasing mistake of my amateur radio life.  I was duped by the Elecraft hype and it cost me $1700 of my hard-earned money.  Potential buyers looking for a portable/QRP radio should avoid Elecraft products.  Instead I recommend starting with a Yaesu FT-817 and adding after-market filters and an IF tap via the G4HUP PAT kit if you want panadapter functionality.  Even after all those mods, you'll still end up spending FAR less than you would on a fully equipped KX3, have a FAR more durable radio, and have the benefit of 70cm band to boot.

BACKGROUND:
In October 2015 I ordered a KX-3 kit from Elecraft, as well as the roofing filter, battery charger, internal tuner, and CW paddles.  Upon assembling the kit, I found the right pot on the radio mainboard was inoperative, requiring a complete board replacement.  The following month I added a 2m transverter to the radio. Upon installing the 2m transverter, I found that I was unable to transmit for more than 2-3 minutes at 2W without the transceiver shutting down due to overheating.  Finally, in August 2016 (10 months after my initial purchase) I sat down to operate the radio one morning, and discovered it would not power on.  Upon opening the case, I discovered the 8 internal AA batteries in the internal battery holder had exploded all over the radio.  I sent the remains of the radio to Elecraft, where I was told the radio was a complete loss.

RADIO DESIGN:
The KX-3 is a poorly designed radio from an ergonomics, durability & reliability standpoint.  While Elecraft touts it as a superlative radio for portable & emergency operations, it is anything but.  The radio internals consist of a number of stacked circuit boards with no shock/isolation mounting.  The roofing filter stacks vertically on one side of the radio, but is only held in place by a single pass-through screw which supposedly keeps it in place.  Even with the screw in place, the roofing filter board has a moderate amount of play when touched.  The internal battery charger and internal battery pack are likely the worst design I've ever seen in an electronic component.  The power wires for the battery charger are routed between two very tight spaces inside the radio, where the wires can easily become pinched and short against adjacent components.  Furthermore, rather than sit at the bottom of the radio where a leak would have the least impact, the internal battery pack sits on top the internal component boards of the radio with no underlying protection, so any internal battery malfunction causes irreparable damage to the two main component boards below the battery pack.  Apparently, Elecraft has also had significant problems with the battery pack mounting screws inside the radio either not being seated properly, or backing out under portable use, causing batteries to short out.  There were quite a few warnings/cautions/notes about this in the kit assembly guide.

ELECRAFT - THE WARRANTY FINE PRINT:
While I was certainly disappointed that my KX3 failed 10 months into its service life, I assumed a company with Elecraft's reputation would stand behind their product and replace the radio under the 1-year warranty it came with.  I certainly assumed wrongly.  Upon sending back my $1700 KX-3, Elecraft informed me the radio was a complete loss, but they extended the "generous" offer of allowing me to purchase a replacement KX-3 for "only" $975.  The initial technician report from Elecraft failed to identify the cause of the failure, and when I inquired about the warranty coverage the "Customer Support" tech proceeded to proliferously quote the "fine print" from various Elecraft documents about how Elecraft wasn't responsible for damage caused by "non-Elecraft accessory equipment" (the batteries in this case).  He also quoted fine print which said Elecraft wouldn't replace the radio if the damage was caused by alkaline battery leakage (my batteries were NiMH).  Finally, he said, and I quote:  "It was our conclusion that a battery failure caused the destruction of the internal boards in your radio. How this happened is undetermined, but it could have been related to the battery holder assembly and a shorted battery cell."  To paraphrase: "Battery failure caused the destruction of your KX3.  We couldn't determine how this happened, so we are assuming it was your fault."  Despite the fact that I followed the kit assembly instructions to the finest detail (especially because of all the warnings about battery shorts in the assembly instructions), used the recommended NiMH batteries, and the radio operated normally for 10 months after I assembled the kit and used it only as a desktop base-station radio, Elecraft "Customer Support" refused to honor the 1-year warranty on the radio.  During my warranty discussions, Elecraft management convened and apparently collectively decided they would revise their initial radio replacement offer from $975 down to "only $675, provided I accepted the offer within 5 days of receipt."  Having already been duped out of $1700 by the company, I declined the offer.

ELECRAFT - THE COMPANY:
Elecraft has chosen to bill itself as a high-end radio producer, and charges premium-rate prices for their products.  While their products certainly generate top-quality specs in laboratory testing, it is highly indicative that the company is run by engineers who know hardware, but don't have a clue how to do customer relations.  Furthermore, given their reputation in print, I was actually taken aback at how overt was the company's failure to stand behind their product.  I was also surprised that Elecraft chose to dig in their heels on the warranty replacement.  Even if a replacement radio for me cost the company $975 (the initial replacement price they quoted me), assuming a 100% markup on their products (an approximate retail average), if a negative review costs them only two KX3 sales, they would have been better off just replacing the radio.

Bottom line - Elecraft's website header bear's the tagline "Hands-On Ham Radio".  By that, they apparently mean "your hands-on means we wash ours of any liability".  My experience with Elecraft left me with the profound impression that the company only cares about getting your dollars.  If you want top quality performance right up to the point you're left holding the bag because of Elecraft design/manufacturing shortcomings, the KX3 is definitely the radio for you.  As for me, Elecraft will never see another dime of my money - I much prefer a company that stands behind their products.

Wow, thanks for this information. I was about to place an order for a new K3S, but learning that they do not back their products under warranty makes me very concerned. Really wanted to buy from a US manufacturer now that we have lost TenTec, but I am not going to risk all that money on a radio that may or may not be covered under warranty if something goes wrong. I hate when companies look for some legal loophole to back out of liability for their products.

In my opinion, if they could not determine the reason for the failure, then in good conscience, they should consider it to have been a defect and covered it.

Well, now I know to write off Elecraft as a possibility. Back to looking at Flex again.
IMO, the real problem was not a single cell failure.  After all, he told us that all of the 8 cells ruptured and dumped their contents.  So, their conclusion was not correct.  How do 8 cells all fail?  A direct short to the entire pack of some sort or from heat built up from overcharging.  Outcomes not in front of any "last resort" battery pack protection.

A battery heating problem could have opened a thermal fuse, but it didn't.  A fuse could have been placed in the leads from the pack to prevent destruction in the event of a radio board or wiring fault, but it wasn't.  These types of protection are obviously not in the radio's design.

It clearly wasn't the fault of a single cell, so I think that he indeed should have a valid warranty claim.  That is, if the NiMH cells were an approved type and rating for use in the radio.  If Elecraft supplied the cells, an even stronger argument.

It was either wiring, packaging (the screw fault), a component short or possibly overcharging by the charger.  They clearly should have honored their warranty.  The only way it could have been his responsibility was if one cell and only one cell had failed.  Then, and only then, could they have a valid argument that it was his fault in that he picked an inferior group of cells.

I was once part of a forensic investigation involving a laptop fire.  One cell in the laptop battery internally shorted, causing a serious fire.  As it turned out, the pack was not factory original equipment, but an aftermarket battery that could not be conclusively identified as the cell construction internally looked different.  The laptop owner was judged to be at fault for choosing a non OEM battery and not one from the manufacturer.  And, unlike yours, we could tell from the destruction that it was a single cell short, not the entire pack of cells, which otherwise would have embodied the unit's design, charger, etc.

One cell, the ham's fault.  All cells, IMO, conditionally their fault based on his description of the cells.
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WB8NUT
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Posts: 503


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« Reply #33 on: October 19, 2016, 03:24:22 AM »

Agreed it is an issue with the product, not the user. Not a good business practice to reject the entire warranty claim. Elecraft off the list of potential vendors now.
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KL7CW
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Posts: 171




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« Reply #34 on: November 15, 2016, 10:22:37 PM »

I built and have used my KX1 for about 12 years...thousands of QSO's from various places in the world...never any trouble.  I repaired a friends out of warranty Elecraft and received the parts in a few days for a very reasonable cost.  I have ordered Elecraft parts several times for my various home brew projects and the Elecraft folks I talked to were very helpful. Most of my 62 years as a ham, I got by with very minimal expenditures.  However about 6 weeks ago I took the plunge and ordered a K3S kit with many options.  My finished Kit would not TX, so after a little troubleshooting myself, I called tech support.  They said I could send the kit back for repair, however I was anxious to get it going myself.  They gave me several things to check as probable causes.  After only perhaps an hour or so I was able to find the trouble and did not even need to take the radio apart or dig out my scope or spectrum analyzer.
I am a happy camper with my new rig, however it has been a bit of a challenge for this old guy with fat fingers to work the controls and learn how to navigate the menus.  But I knew this before I ordered the rig, and would still order one now.  I am 99% CW, so cannot yet evaluate the SSB or data performance, but WOW the rx performance seems to be great, although I have not yet done scientific testing....just used my ears.
     Rick   KL7CW    Palmer, Alaska
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NO9E
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Posts: 636




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« Reply #35 on: November 22, 2016, 11:18:57 AM »

I had a problem with KX3 that its ATU had a narrow range. Replacing ATU did no help. Then, Elecraft replaced the radio. It has been traveling with me to many parts of the globe ever since with no problem. Lately driving Expert 1.3K to a KW level and not overheating even when running.
KX3 +expert 1.3k - instant QSY with >= 1 KW to up to 4 antennas. 

Ignacy, NO9E 
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VE3YF
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Posts: 498




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« Reply #36 on: November 25, 2016, 04:29:05 AM »

I currently own a Full K-Line and more. I have had nothing but great success with the complete Line of Elecraft Products.

For some as they have said here that the Elecraft Products are not Ergonomic enough for them. That maybe the case, and others may have a certain brand of radio that they have been using for years and don't want to change. To each their own. Not a big deal.

Up till now I have heard nothing but raves about the support from Elecraft over the years and I don't notice any changes as of late. Sure I have had to send back equipment for mods or repairs but Elecraft is a company that is great to work with the end user and no outrageous bills etc. In fact I find just the opposite, they goofed and forgot to install a new component that I had asked them to install, they paid for the shipping back to them and installed the component and shipped the rig back to me on their dime. The missing component was not billed for originally. So as you can see by my experience I have nothing but good things to say.

The problem is someone for what ever reason, has had a bad experience with Elecraft and then they badmouth the company. We have only heard one side of the story, and I can fully understand that Elecraft won't get into an online debate with those people, which is the proper way to be.

Someone will always have a gripe for whatever reason, not that I don't believe what the guy is saying, but there is always 2 sides to every story. Always found that politeness works well, instead of going in with a bitter taste in your mouth.

Bottom line is talk is cheap and I don't take complaints at face value, best to hear both sides....

73 De Mike
VE3YF

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73 De Mike
VE3YF

http://www.ve3yf.com
WA7SGS
Member

Posts: 66




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« Reply #37 on: December 03, 2016, 07:02:47 PM »

When the KX2 came out, I put the product into my "think about it seriously" hopper.  Now that I have read the KE7KUS story, I think at this point I'll bail on a purchase from Elecraft.  For those who are happy with their purchases, YMMV.  I do not feel like spending four figure amounts when dealing with questionable products or manufacturers.  As the Mob bosses said in "Casino" before having witnesses gunned down to their Vegas dealings, "Why take a chance?".

There's plenty of other radio gear that can attract my dinero!

Rick
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N9CM
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« Reply #38 on: December 07, 2016, 06:31:27 AM »

Had the K3.  Parted with it.  No regrets.  Just not my expensive thing...
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NI0C
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Posts: 2857




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« Reply #39 on: December 08, 2016, 07:15:51 AM »

My experience is similar to those reported by VE3YF and KL7CW.

I've built, owned and used Elecraft radios since 2005, and the only failure I've experienced was a broken RF gain control knob on the K3 (replaced at no charge by the company). 

I've owned three KX1's (built two of them) and built a K2 and K3 from kits.  I also have the P3 and a KX2.  I've taken KX1's to the field, and both a KX1 and KX2 on trips to Europe.

The stuff just keeps working, like my Maytag washing machine.  I've downloaded and installed countless free firmware upgrades for the K3 and KX2.  These upgrades often included new features for my radios. 

73,
Chuck  NI0C
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K9RJ
Member

Posts: 57




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« Reply #40 on: December 14, 2016, 12:35:49 PM »

KE7KUS raises several issues. I will summarize them as follows:
1.   The KX3 is unsuitable for its advertised purpose because of certain design faults. “The KX-3 is a poorly designed radio from an ergonomics, durability & reliability standpoint.”
2.   For less money you can get a more robust radio based on an FT-817 with third party add-ons.
3.   He was ‘duped’ by Elecraft hype and as a result lost $1700. His radio was a total write-off after all 8 batteries “exploded all over the radio”.

I think Kurt makes a good case about some design fault issues. One would hope that Elecraft is taking these ideas on board with a view to improving the radio. Looking at eHam reviews there are a number of other issues with the KX3.

I won’t address the second issue. There are many more options than the FT-817.

In terms of the third issue, there are several unanswered questions. The first and most important is what caused the batteries to fail. I think Kurt is saying that the batteries likely exploded due to a design fault.  “Apparently, Elecraft has also had significant problems with the battery pack mounting screws inside the radio either not being seated properly, or backing out under portable use, causing batteries to short out.  There were quite a few warnings/cautions/notes about this in the kit assembly guide.”

Elecraft’s conclusion after examining the radio was "… a battery failure caused the destruction of the internal boards in your radio. How this happened is undetermined, but it could have been related to the battery holder assembly and a shorted battery cell." It is unfortunate that they were unable to do a full root-cause analysis because it isn’t clear why even if there was a single shorted battery cell that it would cause the other 7 batteries to explode. To the extent that the problem was/may have been related to the battery holder assembly, that would seem to be the responsibility of Elecraft. However, there are some unanswered questions. Were all the batteries from the same batch? Did Kurt check with the manufacturer to find out if they had a bad production run? How old were these batteries? I have checked on the Internet and found almost zero instances of exploding NiMH batteries. When the radio was used on August 2016, had it been plugged into the charger? Were the batteries recharged using the KXBC3 charger? What was the time setting on the BAT CHG? The typical recharge time is specified as 8-12 hours. Was the charger left on for much longer than that? Per the Elecraft manual the KX3 turns itself off when charging is complete.

Bottom line is the actual cause of the battery failure is unknown but there is no dispute that the batteries did fail.

Initially Elecraft offered a 43% discount on a new radio. They later increased their offer to 60% ($675). In other words they agreed to a 60% warranty rather than a 100% warranty. Each person can decide whether given the unknown root-cause of the failure whether this is fair. I fully appreciate that Kurt, having spent $1700 only to have his radio fail within 10 months is going to be very unhappy. I would be too. I note that the current Elecraft warranty excludes all damage to the radio caused by the batteries. While this is fairly common for products using batteries, it doesn’t leave any incentive for Elecraft to change the design of the radio so that if there is a battery problem, the damage will be contained within the battery holder. This would dissuade me from buying a KX3 given that the design or construction of the radio may well be the cause of the failure. There are other issues mentioned in the eHam reviews and these were influential in my decision to not buy a KX3. I recently purchased an Elad FDM DUO instead.

In the interest of full disclosure, I own numerous Elecraft products including a K3, P3, KPA500, XG3 and T1. I am happy with all of them.
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